It’s a Big MACs World

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Earlier this week, WIPP submitted comments on a proposed rule changing the rules related to small business participation on multiple award contracts, also known as MACs.

The FAR Council, which oversees federal acquisition regulations, sought to clarify the use of set-asides, reserves, and orders placed against MACs. As contractors already know, use of these large contracts is steadily growing. Ensuring all socioeconomic groups, including women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) have access to these opportunities, is a top priority for WIPP.

The rule adds coverage for the new concept of a “reserve.” A reserve would be used on MACs where a partial set-aside is not feasible, but where agencies still want small businesses to participate as prime contractors. This “reserve” concept is very similar to the tracks outlined in WIPP’s Do Not Enter report, which shows how agencies have utilized certain socio-economic set-asides, and discriminated against women-owned firms.

While the proposal provides clarity for contracting officers, it falls short by including an out-of-date policy regarding the limitations on subcontracting. In May 2016, the Small Business Administration finalized a rule change that substantially revised the limitations on subcontracting by making it easier for women-owned firms to comply. The new rule focuses on the percentage of the award amount that has been subcontracted, not the percentage of work. The rule also provides an exemption for similarly situated entities, so WOSBs subcontracting to other WOSBs does not count against the percentage of the award subcontracted. This new policy is a win-win for small businesses, but the FAR Council does not acknowledge the new policy in its rule. If one of the purposes of the rule is to clarify small business authorities for contracting officers, the FAR should use the most up-to-date performance of work requirements.

WIPP appreciates the interest of the FAR Council in providing greater flexibility and clarity for the role of small businesses in multiple award contracts. But this proposed rule does not do enough. Without additional small business protections, this rule could hurt our nation’s biggest job creators- small businesses.

WIPPs full comments on the rule can be found here.

Reimagining Health Care

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Affordability, predictability, and flexibility were three themes reiterated at the Feb. 7 hearing held by the House Committee on Small Business entitled “Reimagining the Health Care Marketplace for America’s Small Business.” It was held for the purpose of taking a look at the current marketplace and its recent difficulties, and to explore options to improve access, affordability, and consistency.

While no clear legislative path has yet been paved, many facts, figures, and ideas were floated around regarding how to ensure that small business is not an afterthought in the revamping of the healthcare system. Solutions presented and discussed at the hearing included tax credits for small business, across state line coverage, and Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

Here is more about the items discussed.

  • Tax credits for the self-employed: As the Tax Code currently stands, self-employed individuals are restricted from deducting their health insurance premiums. Small, self-employed business owners end up paying more for health insurance because their premiums are not treated the same for taxes as other businesses.

Leveling the playing field by giving these small businesses tax credits would improve affordability for small business owners, as well as expand the pool of coverage, according to Keith Hall of the National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE).

  • Across state line coverage: The number of insurers participating in the marketplace varies widely from state to state, as do the number of coverage plans. The lack of competition among insurers in the current exchanges decreases pressure to keep costs down.

Mr. Hall of the NASE believes that allowing for the sale of health insurance across state lines will boost competition, driving costs down. In order for this to happen, Congress will have to enact a health plan that will modify the existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines.

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs): A provision of a law signed into Congress last session allows small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees that do not offer a group health plan to fund employee HRAs to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses and for non-group plan health insurance premiums, including plans purchased on the public health care exchanges.

Allowing small businesses to offer a bare bones plan and HSAs would allow individuals to decide the best choice for themselves and their families, according to Tom Secor of Durable Corporation, who testified on behalf of the National Small Business Association (NSBA).

This hearing was the first of a continuing series that will take place on the discussion of healthcare repeal and replacement. To read full written testimony from each witness here.

Gloria Larkin, WIPP’s National Partner of the Month – February 2017

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Gloria Larkin, president of TargetGov, has been a staunch ally of WIPP for years. She leads GiveMe5 webinars, responds quickly and effectively to WIPP’s calls to action, and is always on the lookout for new WIPP members. It’s thanks to people like Gloria that WIPP thrives!

Read our Q&A with Gloria to learn more about her and her work.

Q: Tell us a little about TargetGov and its mission

A: TargetGov is celebrating its 20th year in business in 2017! Our mission is to help small, mid-sized and large government contractors win business and aggressively grow their companies. Our clients have won over $3.9 billion in federal contracts in just the last five years.

Q: Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?

A: I have been both an employee and an entrepreneur. I took the leap 20 years ago because I wanted to do something that no one else was doing—help businesses see great success and increase their revenues with a targeted, proactive marketing and business development process.

Q: Have you encountered challenges you had to overcome as a business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?

A: The challenges have been constant, and access to capital is one of the biggest. Through the years, I have had several business loans to grow my business, and none of them were the amount I asked for. It’s an issue even to this day. In applying for a line of credit, I was offered less than half of what I thought it should be. I had the chutzpah to say exactly the amount I thought they should give me (more than double what they offered) and was pleasantly surprised that they agreed. In the past I wouldn’t have pushed, but now, I do.

Q: Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

A: My proudest moments are when our clients contact us and tell us of their awarded contracts and successful business growth. It feels like my children are successful and I am one proud parent! The first billion was a heady milestone. Now as we see the four-billion milestone coming this year, we are ecstatic about their success!

Q: What is the biggest lesson learned working with the federal government?

A: The biggest lesson is that the federal government market is constantly changing. The rules and regulations are burdensome, yes, but success is predicated on having a strategy and plan that addresses this constant change and adapts proactively, with a trackable, measureable and scalable process. Seeing it work in real life is extraordinary!

Q: Do you have any tips you would like to share with women pursuing federal contracts?

A: This is a demanding market and one must be well prepared, have a well-thought-out roadmap, the discipline to execute it, and measurable actions to track success. This is truly the market in which you can think BIG and see results. But it takes effort and knowledge; use the experts to help you!

Q: Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member. What resources and value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?

A: WIPP has truly changed my life. I started getting involved as a committee chair, then learned how to talk to my Congress people. I participated in virtually every area WIPP works in and found a home on the procurement committee. Then I worked my way onto the government board, and then to Chair of the Educational Foundation. Thanks to WIPP, I have testified before the House Small Business Committee, and traveled to more than 15 states and had lifetime trips to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Japan and Oxford, England to speak or work with women in those counties. Working to start the GiveMe5 program, and supporting it through the years has been a great highlight. WIPP has impacted more than 30,000 women business owners through GiveMe5! And I am deeply honored to have many WIPP members as clients and heart-felt friends.

Guest Post: ONBOARD Program Revolutionizing the Board Diversity Problem

By Michael Morales, White House Fellow, U.S. Small Business Administration

Diversity of thought and experience on corporate leadership teams boost company innovation, resiliency and growth. Gender and racially diverse individuals, for example, bring a variety of thought to their workplaces by virtue of their backgrounds and experiences.

A 2015 McKinsey study of 366 public companies in the Unites States, United Kingdom, Canada and Latin America, titled “Diversity Matters,” found that “diversity is a competitive differentiator that shifts market share towards more diverse companies.” It determined that companies in the top quartile of gender and racial diversity were 15 percent and 35 percent (respectively) more likely to have financial returns above the national industry median.

Unfortunately, despite this strong correlation between diversity and performance, today’s corporate boardrooms do not reflect the diversity of our population. McKinsey’s study concluded that women account for just 16 percent of executive team members in the United States and that 97 percent of American companies have senior leadership teams that fail to reflect the demographic composition of the country’s labor force and population.

Many organizations and experts passionate about addressing this issue have concluded this is a demand rather than a supply problem. I agree. My own work in this space has exposed me to a deep pool of diverse talent and domain expertise ready and eager to contribute their ideas and experiences to corporate boards across the country.

On the demand side, however, the fact is that public companies, particularly those in the Fortune 1000 cohort, do not have high boardroom turnover and are unlikely to add board seats simply to diversify their executive teams. In addition, boardroom recruitment is largely a word-of-mouth exercise demonstrating that who knows you often matters as much as what you know.

To address the demand issue, while continuing to develop and grow the supply side of the diverse talent equation, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) developed a new initiative: the Open Network for Board Diversity (ONBOARD). We approached LinkedIn as a partner in this important initiative, not only because LinkedIn has the ideal platform for the type of group we are trying to nurture, but because they too are serious about addressing the lack of diversity and inclusion in the labor force. We also sought a group of diverse organizations passionate about board diversity as charter organizations and recognized these partners at our ONBOARD launch event at the Library of Congress on Oct. 13, 2016.

ONBOARD addresses the demand side of board diversity through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program. As one of the largest fund-of-funds in the country, the SBIC program seeks to partners with venture capitalists, private equity funds and other vehicles that invest in America’s high growth small business. Since the program’s inception in 1958, it has deployed more than $84 billion of capital in over 174,000 small business investments. Last year, the SBIC program provided $6 billion in financing to 1,200 small businesses. Some of America’s most iconic brands, such as Apple, Intel, FedEx, Tesla, Whole Foods, and Pandora received SBIC funding.

SBICs, and the companies in which they invest, are fertile ground to increase boardroom diversity. Why? SBIC portfolio companies are among our most innovative, rapidly growing and adapting, but in some cases are just creating their corporate or advisory board or have boards where everyone has the same last name. The ONBOARD group on LinkedIn is an ideal place for these companies to find diverse talent and domain expertise vital to their company’s continued growth. The members of our partner organizations are the very talent that these companies need.

As the ONBOARD group grows (we are almost at 700 members to date), we will continue to advertise this talented group with our SBICs. So far, the feedback from SBICs has been overwhelmingly positive.

Furthermore, the valuable content, webinars and events accessible to ONBOARD members makes the group a vital resource for those either looking for greater board opportunities, or who are eager to contribute their expertise to a board for the first time. We are in the midst of a three-part webinar series entitled “Be Board Ready,” the first of which focused on creating your own board value proposition. We encourage you to the join the ONBOARD group (click HERE). We welcome your ideas on how to make this important initiative into something revolutionary.

10 Things You Should Know From the Linda McMahon Hearing

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

On Jan. 24, the Senate Small Business Committee held a hearing on the confirmation of Linda McMahon (former WWE CEO), to become Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Here are the 10 things you should know about her hearing:

  1. SBA is still part of the cabinet—President Obama elevated the position of SBA Administrator to cabinet level. President Trump is sticking with that change.
  2. Existing programs are safe…for now—When questioned by numerous senators on specific program commitments, McMahon repeatedly said that if the program is working then it should be continued.
  3. She will go to bat for small business in the executive branch—McMahon sees herself as the small business advocate within the executive branch, and will go to other agencies and make sure that more federal contracting opportunities are provided to small businesses.
  4. She will work to expand the 5% contracting goal for women—Senator Duckworth (IL), asked about the 5% goal, and McMahon expressed support for women entrepreneurs, broadly, “I have been very forthcoming in wanting women entrepreneurship to grow. And I will continue to support that, it is very near and dear to my heart.”
  5. She has a history working with Veterans—According to McMahon, WWE was always concerned about veterans and how to help create jobs for them. Senator Cardin (MD) discussed the Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) program and noted its impact and high performance.
  6. Look for an emphasis on mentoring—Given McMahon’s background in business mentoring, she may focus on programs that incorporate mentorship. As co-founder of Women’s Leadership LIVE, McMahon’s organization educates entrepreneurs about all facets of starting and expanding their business.
  7. She wants to help free small businesses from burdensome regulations—While many senators asked questions about regulatory burdens on small businesses, Senator Ernst brought up the PROVE It Act—legislation passed out of committee last session that empowers the SBA Office of Advocacy to require agencies to analyze rules for their small business impact.
  8. Speaking of advocacy—McMahon expressed support for expanding the independent SBA Office of Advocacy to ensure that the voice of small business is heard on federal regulations.
  9. She wants small businesses to participate in anticipated Infrastructure projects—When asked about promoting fair opportunities for small businesses to compete for work in the highly anticipated infrastructure plan, McMahon stated that small business participation was a given.
  10. Streamlining cumbersome federal contracting—McMahon expressed support for streamlining the alphabet soup of federal websites and databases like SAM and FBO.

This was a conciliatory confirmation hearing. Given the contentious nature of other confirmation hearings, it was unknown what tone McMahon’s hearing would take. But the hearing went well. Senators were polite and McMahon was responsive to concerns. With so much partisanship in Washington, it was positive to see McMahon’s interest in working with the committee—both sides.

Senate Begins Process to Repeal Obamacare

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

The 115th Congress is already at work and taking votes that impact women business owners. The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday to approve a budget resolution that instructs Congressional committees to begin work on legislation repealing major portions of the Affordable Care Act.

Senator Rand Paul was the lone Republican “no” vote and Republicans defeated Democratic amendments defending popular portions of the ACA, including expanded Medicaid and Medicare and allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26.

The House is expected to take up the resolution this week, though debate may extend into the weekend.

WIPP will work with Congress to ensure that whatever changes are implemented address accessibility and affordability—issues that have plagued the small business market.

WIPP will stay on top of legislative developments like this in 2017 to make sure you have the latest information you need.

WIPP @ WORK: Decrease Company Healthcare Costs With Self-Care

WIPP partnered with Pfizer Consumer Health Care to discuss the growing important of “self-care,” and ways business owners can decrease health costs for their companies. Nationally, employers lose a total of $165 billion in lost productivity costs due to employee health issues. Much of this, however, can be mitigated by encouraging employee wellness — which doesn’t have to be expensive. Gary Surmay, Director of North America Public Affairs at Pfizer, shares employee wellness tips for employers in the webinar Self Care: Empowering Employee Health & Wellness. Filled with clear and simple infographics, this webinar easily guides employees and employers to take control of their health and get back to work. 

Coupons on self-care medicines to get you started:

WIPP National Partner of the Month – September 2016

WIPP National Partner of the Month – September 2016

angela-harpalaniAngela Harpalani, CEO of Dimensional Concepts, LLC

We sat down with Angela to hear a little bit more about her business and her relationship with WIPP.

1.Tell us a little about Dimensional Concepts and its mission.

Dimensional Concepts, LLC (DCL) provides solutions and services in Business Intelligence, Data Analytics, Data Integration, Policy Analysis, and Resource Management Support.

Our mission is to empower our customers with actionable knowledge to achieve their organizational goals.

2. How have your company got into the Federal Contracting? What is the biggest lesson learned working with the Federal Government?

Dimensional Concepts got into Federal Contracting as a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). We have been a contractor to them for over 8 years. Before Northrop Grumman our work was commercial – CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, World Bank and TD Ameritrade. Later we teamed with another Veteran Owned firm to win some work with the Department of Defense and then team with another woman business to win CMS Sparc.

The biggest lesson learned is to not become a SBA 8(a) firm until you have an in-depth understanding of government contracting and have developed an extensive list of contacts within the agencies that you are targeting.

3. Do you have any tips you would like to share with other women pursuing Federal Contracts?

My tips would be to make sure that you understand how acquisitions work for your target agencies because they are somewhat different when it comes to how they buy.  And building relationships will be key in building your business.

4. Have you encountered any challenges you had to overcome as a professional business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?

One challenge that I see is women don’t always help each other like men do for other men. I think that our goals should be to team with other women businesses and to support each other in growing our leadership skills and businesses.

5. Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

Most of the time when we win a contract, we call the local shelter or a veteran organization to see if there are families or individuals that we can support by paying their first month rent and deposit fees. We have done 5 families and 2 individuals so far and hope to do 1-2 more this year. We usually work with Cornerstones’ Embry Rucker Community Shelter in Reston, VA because of their tag line, Hope for Tomorrow Today.

6. Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member. What resources/value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?

As a WIPP member, the organization has given me a better understanding how politics play into regulations that effect our businesses. I appreciate WIPP’s support in going to our politicians to represent the concerns of women businesses.

Why Women Business Owners Need Better Access to Capital

dimenco-emilia-picBy Emilia DiMenco, President & CEO, Women’s Business Development Center

As a retired banker and now President and CEO of the Women’s Business Development Center, I have focused my entire professional career on helping small business owners access capital for growth. As any business owner will tell you, financing is critical to business growth.

Traditional bank financing is attractive because of its typically low interest rates. Yet women business owners – who generate more than $1 trillion annually in receipts, and are growing at 1.5 times the rate of average businesses – are consistently denied bank loans. In 2013, less than one in three loan applications for women-owned firms were approved.

A 2014 report issued by the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship on barriers to women’s entrepreneurship found that women receive only 16 percent of conventional small business loans. This amounts to 4.4 percent of the total dollar value of all small business loans, leaving women-owned firms with only $1 out of every $23 that is being loaned to small businesses.

WBDC observes this problem firsthand when a fast-growing female entrepreneur wins a corporate or government contract, then has trouble getting the capital she needs to fill the order. If she’s denied loans, she has a couple of options: she either turns to unregulated, predatory merchant cash-advance lenders or other high-interest sources of capital, or her business stagnates.

The real solution lies in the hands of federal policymakers who have a responsibility to make changes which will help women get capital at a fair interest rate. As a start, policymakers must improve the SBA 7A program’s standards to allow sales from new and prospective contracts to be taken into consideration when approving a loan — not simply a company’s historic cash flow. Next, they must Increase funding for non-profit alternative lenders such as Community Development Financial Institutions and micro-lenders. Finally, they must provide transparency and disclosure for small business lending so that small businesses are informed upfront of interest rates, fees, and other terms.

New measures are desperately needed now to remove the barriers to financing that most women entrepreneurs face. Until that happens, woman-owned businesses won’t grow at the speed and to the levels they could. Sadly, that will impact all of us.

Emilia DiMenco is president and CEO of the Womens Business Development Center, a Chicago-based economic empowerment organization serving a nine-state Midwest region, which provides programs and services to prospective, emerging and established women business owners. For more information, visit www.wbdc.org.

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Bringing Water to the Women’s Capital Desert

chadwell-tracy-picTracy Killoren Chadwell, Founder and Partner of 1843 Capital, WIPP Friend

Water makes things grow. Capital makes companies grow. Companies grow jobs.

If job growth is a priority for the U.S. government, then investing in women led startups should be a priority. Women led startups are one of the highest growing categories for job growth. Women start 1,000 businesses every day. Women have added 1,290,245 jobs over the last 10 years. They contribute $1.4 Trillion dollars in receipts annually to the U.S. economy. According to BusinessDynamics Statistics (U.S. Census) existing companies are net job killers (1 million per year) and startups are net job growers (more than 3 million per year). Women are the gardeners and women are starting companies at 1.5 times the average rate.

Women founded companies are seeing a tremendous amount of support at the seed stage. Women focused incubators, accelerators, grant programs, mentors, seed investors and grant programs are in place. They are doing a great job of getting the seeds planted and the companies’ roots to take hold. However, there is a big component missing. The capital is lacking to take the companies from seed stage to a place where they can achieve profitability. Companies reach a place where they are finding traction, gaining customers and hiring people and they are left to wither for lack of funding. Venture capital, the traditional source of capital to grow, goes disproportionately to companies that have all male teams. According to the Diana report, women led companies only receive 3% of total venture capital dollars. 97% goes to male teams. Researchers at the MIT Sloan School, Harvard Business School, and Wharton Business School found that, given the same pitch, men were 40 percent more likely to receive funding than a woman presenting the same pitch. Some may argue that the companies led by men are somehow “better.” We finally have great data that says that isn’t true. A study by First Round Capital, of 300 of it’s portfolio companies, shows that a company with at least one female founder on the team outperformed the traditional all male companies by 63%. A study by Stamford University shows that female led venture backed companies out perform by 35% and have 12% more revenues.

The story on the debt side isn’t any better. Women led businesses received 4% of commercial loans. Loan approval rates for women owed companies are 15-20% lower than for companies with traditional all male teams. When they do get access to loans, they are often subject to higher interest rates.

Amazingly enough, high growth women led companies are not all technology based (although a wise woman once said “all businesses are technology businesses”). They are health care, service, manufacturing and consumer products, every garden variety.

The solutions to this problem are readily accessible. We can empower more female fund managers with capital. We can expand business education and counseling for women. We can change the way credit is created and monitored. We can support and expand small business lending. Women traditionally have achieved so much more with less. On average, women grow their businesses with less than half the capital than men. A little water will yield a bumper crop of new jobs.

Uncle Sam, Mrs. American Startup is here to rescue you. All we need is a little water for the desert.

Tracy Killoren Chadwell is the Founder and Partner of 1843 Capital, an early stage venture capital fund focused on women led companies. 1843 was the year Ada Lovelace (the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron) wrote the first computer program. http://www.1843capital.com

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